Burgers or Balls: Must You Choose?

I’ve said it before, but I believe in the one family, one meal philosophy. I, like so many of my generation, grew up in households where you ate what was put in front of you or you didn’t eat. (The Great Pea Contract stands as testimony to not only my hatred of peas, but of a deep-rooted stubbornness coursing through my family.) Of course, I want to inflict the same torture upon my child. He eats what we eat with a few variations.

That’s why I was super excited to find a recipe for Chicken and Apple Balls in The Healthy Baby Meal Planner by Annabel Karmel. Yeah, this is a bit of a fudge. I don’t eat meatballs unless they are sitting on top of spaghetti and swimming in sauce. (And, even then, I’m not a huge fan… I blame my grandmother. What you call a meatball is not, in fact, a meatball. A meatball is what my grandmother made. And, they were so ridiculously good that there can be no comparison.) But, these suckers can be made into burgers in chicken or turkey variety for the adults and crazy balls for the kids.

Both ways are delish. And, the balls freeze well.

Chicken and Apple Balls

  • 2 t light olive oil (I have no idea what light olive oil is… I used extra virgin.)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
  • 2 chicken breast fillets (about ½ lb), cut into chunks
  • ½ T fresh parsley, chopped (I was out, so I omitted this ingredient.)
  • 1 T fresh thyme or sage, chopped, or a pinch mixed dried herbs (I went with sage as my garden is currently being overrun by the stuff.)
  • 1 C fresh white breadcrumbs (I used the not fresh, been sitting on the shelf variety)
  • All-purpose flour for coating
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté half the onion for about 3 minutes. Using your hands, squeeze out a little excess liquid from the grated apple. Mix the apple with the chicken, cooked and remaining raw onion, herbs, and breadcrumbs. This is what my ingredients looked like before the next step. Take note: Your chicken really doesn’t have to be chopped neatly as you’re about to pulverize it in a food processor.

Chicken Balls in a Bowl

Roughly chop in a food processor for a few seconds. (I found pulsing for about 30 seconds did the trick.)

With your hands, form into about 20 little balls. (I had quite a few more raw balls [and, yes, I enjoyed typing the words raw balls… and, yes, I have a puerile sense of humor… and, yes, if you don’t know the definition of puerile you should look it up]. I think I ended up with about 25 or 30.). Roll in flour, and fry in shallow oil for about 5 minutes until lightly golden and cooked through. Cool slightly before serving.


If you are doing the burger variation, this will probably make four decent sized burgers. The addition of breadcrumbs also you to stretch you the meat Depression-era style. (Or, hey, modern Great Recession era style.)

You also don’t need the flour for coating. (I’m actually not sure why it’s in this recipe at all.) I found that the breadcrumbs kept the entire ball together just fine for the frying portion. You don’t need the extra starch to bind it. In fact, I did a test fry with and sans flour. They came out the same and the bonus of not having a flour coating is less mess in the oil at the end.

Chicken and Apple Balls on a plate

One issue I found was evenness of the outside sear. As you can see, some of the edges are a bit browner than others.

The only other thing I would change in this recipe is to replace the onions with scallions. I understand what she was trying to do with sautéing half the onions—bring out their sweetness so you don’t have the harsh onion taste. But, if you replace the onion with scallions, you’ll get a mellower flavor without the extra step.


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